How friendly is your accent?

How important is our accent?

People holding conversations. Credit:

Have you ever wondered how your accent influences others’ perceptions? A recent study highlights the significant impact of accents on social interactions, some results may surprise you.

A comprehensive analysis looked at global perceptions of various accents. Reportedly, one’s accent can affect everything from job prospects and levels of attractiveness to how people are measured in terms of intelligence and friendliness.

The research was conducted with 5,000 participants worldwide, the study aimed to identify which country’s accent is perceived as the most and least friendly.

This global survey, conducted in early 2024, offers fascinating insights into the biases and preferences associated with different accents.

Accent perceptions and social implications

The findings revealed that Americans are top-rated for friendliness, with one in five participants considering the American accent as the most congenial.

Interestingly, despite their linguistic similarities, the Canadian accent lagged behind, selected by only one in 12 as the friendliest.

Following closely, the British accent earned the second spot, with one in seven respondents favouring it. This aligns with a recent study showing the British accent as globally likable, with 45 per cent enjoying hearing their native language in this accent.

The diversity of friendly accents

Ranking third, the Australian accent was deemed friendly by nearly one in ten participants. However, the Kiwi accent, often compared to the Australian, ranked 15th, chosen by just one in a hundred.

This is despite it being labelled the ‘sexiest’ accent in a 2019 survey. The study’s list of accents perceived as friendly is as follows.

  • American 19.5 per cent
  • British 13.6 per cent
  • Australian 8.8 per cent
  • Canadian 8.7 per cent
  • German 5.7 per cent
  • French 5.5 per cent
  • Scottish 3.2 per cent
  • Italian 3.0 per cent
  • Austrian 3.0 per cent
  • Spanish 2.8 per cent
  • Irish 2.8 per cent
  • Indian 2.2 per cent

Linguistic insights

Dr Christopher Strelluf, a linguistics expert from The University of Warwick, provides valuable insights. He states, ‘Attitudes toward language varieties usually reflect the ideas we have about people who speak those varieties.

‘If people around the world think American English sounds friendly, it’s good news for Americans—because it means people think of Americans as friendly people. More nuanced accent labels would likely reveal even greater variability.’

He further elaborated on the regional nuances within accents, suggesting varying perceptions based on the specificities of each accent.

Strelluf added: ‘Many people in the UK would feel that accents of the English North are much friendlier than those of the English South.’

This survey’s results underscore the profound influence accents have on shaping social perceptions.

As languages and accents evolve globally, these perceptions will continue to influence our social dynamics, reflecting the ever-changing landscape of global communication.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.